Many buyers prefer various leather products and accessories since they are distinguished by a presentable appearance and increased wear resistance, allowing them to be used for much longer.
However, in recent years, cases of fakes have become more frequent because the development of technology is speedy, and it is becoming increasingly difficult to distinguish real leather from faux leather. Unscrupulous manufacturers imitate not only the skin's and color's texture but also the most important "component" - the smell, which always made it possible to understand that the product was made of authentic leather.
What material is the bag, jacket, or shoes made of? Is it real leather or artificial? And how much do they differ from each other in properties?
Each manufacturer is required to label products made from natural or artificial leather. Unfortunately, labels are not always accurate. To avoid making a mistake, you must know whether it is natural or artificial leather. This will be discussed in today's article.
Distinctive Characteristics of Authentic Leather
Various types of leather are used to manufacture bags, clothes, or shoes. The quality of the material, thickness, strength, and resistance to mechanical damage depends on the dressing method. The uniqueness of its texture cannot be imitated in synthetic counterparts. Real material, unlike a substitute, heats up quickly and retains temperature. The surface always remains dry. Leatherette heats up from the touch, the surface becomes essential, and it cools down quickly.
The main difference between natural and artificial leather is its unique pattern (scars, wrinkles, pores, etc.). The pattern consists of repeating "patterns" that are similar in size on synthetic surfaces. In addition to the unique pattern, the real skin leaves pores that are easy to see. Their location is chaotic, which cannot be imitated in manufacturing leatherette.
A close inspection of the cut or wrong side should show a lot of suede fibers. For the manufacture of artificial materials, dense knitwear is used as the basis. Even if the appearance of eco-leather is identical to natural, the base always remains fabric.
A comparison of natural leather and artificial is not complete without mentioning the weight. Natural material is always heavier than synthetic material. Of course, depending on the method of dressing, the type of animal, and the weight, for example, the skin of a pig is heavier than a sheep's. But leatherette is, in any case, easier.
Leather products smell light and unobtrusive and do not contain chemical impurities or pungent odor. Leatherette manufacturers use unique flavors and add leather chips to the composition, but this is not enough to completely remove the aroma of chemical additives.
Natural skins are full and elastic. When pressed, it feels soft, and the print quickly disappears.
An animal quickly absorbs moisture. This is evident in light products. A wet place darkens, and the color returns only after complete drying. Leatherette repels liquid and does not change color.
The surface of real leather products, except for varnished ones, is never smooth. She has a heterogeneous texture, rough to the touch. The color changes at the site of the crease formation, but no trace remains. Artificial substitutes are smooth, sometimes even slippery. The color remains the same if a crease is formed and a wrinkle appears.
It is important to consider the dressing, tanning, and processing method. Quality materials of natural origin are not cheap. The most expensive are clothes and shoes made from rare animals (python, crocodile, snake, ostrich, etc.). Such things are of high quality, look respectable, and retain their original appearance for a long time.
Types of Faux Leather
Leatherette is a synthetic material made from composite polymer raw materials. It imitates the structure of the skin of an animal and consists of several layers: knitted base, non-woven fabric, impregnation, and polymer coating. It is used for sewing outerwear, upholstery, footwear, etc. Due to its high moisture and frost resistance and resistance to mechanical damage, it is used in almost all areas of industry. Each type has its characteristics, characteristics:
Vinyl leather. Tear-resistant, elastic, easy to drape, completely imitates natural material;
leatherette. The cotton base is covered with nitrocellulose on both sides. Resistant to abrasion, the smell is not strong. Repels moisture and withstands low temperatures down to minus 1000C. Cheaper than real leather, used for furniture finishing, decoration, and tailoring;
eco-leather. Soft, wear-resistant material allows air to pass through and the body to breathe. It has no smell and maintains low temperatures up to -3500.
Answering the question of why artificial leather is worse than natural, one can single out low wear resistance and strength. Natural material is durable and will reliably serve for several years without deforming. Of course, it requires regular, special care, but it does not burst, does not tear under heavy loads, and does not rub off with intensive use. Think of the real leather jacket that you can wear for years.
Another option for a substitute is pressed leather. This leatherette includes trimmings, shavings from natural hides, or leather dust. All components are crushed, thoroughly mixed, and pressed under high temperatures. Melting, synthetic ingredients stick together with natural ones, forming an air-moisture-proof canvas. Such shoes are rigid, inelastic, and break in the folds. They are used for sewing bags and wallets.
How to distinguish authentic leather from artificial
To buy a quality product, it is important to distinguish synthetic material from natural material at the selection stage. There are quite a few ways; the most common are:
- embossing. On products made from real skins, manufacturers put an imprint with the brand name;
- heat transfer. Touch the product's surface; if the material is natural, it will quickly heat up and remain dry. Synthetic will sweat and instantly cool down;
- thickness, cut. In real leather, the cut is raw and rough;
- elasticity. After pressing, small wrinkles appear on the natural skin, which instantly disappears when the pressure on the surface stops;
- after bending, creases and cracks remain on the leatherette;
- water. Drop on the surface, real leather will instantly absorb water, darken, and leatherette will repel moisture and retain color;
- mechanical impact. If you pull the product in different directions, the substitute will stretch like rubber, and the original will stretch smoothly and unevenly;
- pore location. Pay attention to the drawing. In leatherette, the pores are at the same distance, size, and shape. The pattern of real skin is unique.
These are not all possible ways to check. Another effective technique is to ask the seller for accompanying documents and quality certificates.
There are several other ways to check the leather for naturalness.
- The smell of authentic leather. Natural material has a light "leathery" aroma without all kinds of -impurities. However, manufacturers of high-quality leatherette have learned to imitate this smell; therefore, only a precise fake can be distinguished.
- Thermal impact. Authentic leather, from the touch of hands, quickly becomes warm. This is the main difference because synthetic leather feels “lifeless” and cold to the touch.
- The texture of the material. The leather substitute has a more challenging "plastic" texture and a fairly -smooth surface, while authentic leather is relatively elastic, has an uneven surface, and quickly recovers from deformation.
- mechanical effect on the material. This method, with a high degree of probability, allows you to determine the "naturalness" of the material. You can, for example, scrape the material with -your fingernail. A kind of wrinkle will remain on the surface of real leather. Nothing should happen to the quality leather deputy. The upper layer can simply be removed from poor-quality leather.
- Fire check. Of course, this method cannot be attributed as the most popular; however, it is guaranteed to show the quality of the material. In addition, it is best to use it in practice after purchasing the accessory (to avoid problems with the seller). Artificial and natural leather behave differently when set on fire. Genuine leather does not burn but can only slightly deform on the cut. Synthetic leather is quite “brisk,” burning and melting, leaving a characteristic smell.
Benefits of Authentic Leather
Authentic leather products can serve you for many years, retaining their original appearance. But at the same time, they require careful care.
- Leather is moisture permeable, so we always recommend using a water repellent spray on products that may get wet with use. These include shoes, bags, raincoats, and jackets.
- Real leather is porous and breathable.
- Holds heat well, resistant to low and high temperatures. These properties are fundamental when choosing shoes, clothes, or laptop bags in northern latitudes.
- Elastic, especially after getting wet
- Will fade in direct sunlight.
- It lasts a long time and ages beautifully.
Natural leather is more prone to fading in the sun than high-quality artificial materials.
But it is essential to distinguish between types of leather. For example, "pressed leather" is not a natural material but retains the structure of real leather. It is made from gluing scraps and dust, devoid of many properties of natural material. But it is complicated to distinguish it from the real one, so here you have to rely on the excellent advice of the manufacturer.
Properties of Faux Leather
Artificial materials can vary significantly in quality. They differ in softness, breathability, wear resistance, and ease of care. But they also have standard features.
Properties of artificial leather compared to natural leather:
- Worse pass air.
- It warms worse in frosts and tolerates temperature changes worse.
- With comparable strength, more rigid.
- Doesn't let water through.
- Fades less in the sun.
- Weighs less.
- With aging or wear, it crumbles.
Synthetic materials are more challenging and prone to wear than real leather. Not all of them withstand temperatures, and it is better not to wear clothes and shoes made of artificial materials in frosts below 10 °. Therefore, a bag made of genuine leather will better protect the laptop from temperature changes.
Compared to all artificial materials, natural leather is more breathable. Even modern eco-leather is inferior to it in this parameter. However, the indisputable advantages of leather substitutes are a more affordable price, ease of care, and resistance to fading from the sun.
Should you buy authentic leather products?
Against the background that such leather substitutes are now being produced, which are difficult to distinguish from a natural material, the advisability of buying a bag made of real leather arises.
Yes, the differences between genuine leather and leatherette will be insignificant only for the first six months of use. But over time, unpleasant traces of use will appear on the upper layer of the leatherette. In places, the material will rub and crack. What will never happen with high-quality genuine leather? Even the most expensive leather substitute is inferior to natural leather in wear resistance. And genuine leather ages beautifully and noble, as no artificial material can.
More and more people are paying attention to the environmental friendliness of clothing, but it can be challenging to understand which material will cause less harm to nature.
A material that imitates genuine leather in properties and appearance is usually made of polyurethane, polyvinyl chloride, and polyester. All these are synthetics made from petroleum products - in other words, from plastic.
Recently, manufacturers of artificial leather items often refer to this material as "eco-leather." It's more of a marketing term.
Synthetic materials release microplastic fibers when washed, and faux leather is no exception. True, many things made of synthetic leather are generally forbidden to be washed in a typewriter; others can only be washed at low temperatures (which means that less microplastic will stand out during washing).
The durability of "leatherette" depends on its composition and method of production. So, the more collagens, the more durable the material becomes, and synthetic leather based on knitted fabric lose its shape faster than that based on woven material.
Genuine leather items are generally not recommended to be washed - wiping them with a cloth dipped in water is enough. Considering that up to 25% of an item's carbon footprint can come from washing and caring for it, this is a significant resource saving.
In terms of durability, genuine leather can be classified as one of the most durable and resistant materials to external influences - things made from it can be worn for decades.
Artificial leather based on polyurethane, polyvinyl chloride, and polyester is not biodegradable like any other synthetics. This material will sit in a landfill for hundreds of years, releasing microplastics.
Real leather itself is biodegradable but ceases to be so after chrome tanning.
Products and any kind of leather are practically not recyclable, although there are individual projects that produce recycled leather.
It all comes down to personal preference when comparing real and faux leather. Authentic leather will be the best option if you are not looking for a vegan product.
If you are shopping for leather shoes or clothing, consider the many differences between different types of leather. Find out which skin qualities are most important to you.